Bay Area News Group
HAYWARD -- A man who prosecutors say used a 5-foot-long reptile to guard his Castro Valley pot stash has been sentenced to four months in jail and five years of probation in connection with the crime.
Assif Mayar, who faced up to three years in prison for the charge and pleaded guilty to felony possession of marijuana on Oct. 22, was sentenced Wednesday during a hearing at the Hayward Hall of Justice, according to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office.
In addition to jail time and probation, Superior Court Judge Stuart Hing also ordered Mayar to pay a $3,400 fine, court records show.
Alameda County Sheriff's Office deputies on Jan. 8 visited a home on the 19000 block of Mount Jasper Road, where Mayar lived with his wife and 2-year-old son, after receiving a tip he was selling marijuana. Inside they found a reptile initially thought to be an alligator, guarding 34 pounds of marijuana in a bedroom of the two-story home.
The reptile, named Mr. Teeth, was a dwarf caiman and was confined to a 2-by-8-foot Plexiglas tank on top of a wooden pedestal in a bedroom of the home, deputies said. Mayar told deputies he purchased the reptile when it was small, fed it rats and never took it out of the tank.
Deputies arrested Mayar on suspicion of felony possession of marijuana for sale and later asked prosecutors to charge him with animal abuse. Investigators said the reptile, thought to be 16 years old, was undernourished and was kept in inadequate living conditions at the home.
Mr. Teeth died the following day at the Oakland Zoo's veterinary hospital, where it had arrived "critically ill and nonresponsive," Oakland Zoo spokeswoman Nicky Mora said.
Investigators said the caiman was likely used as a deterrent for burglars. They also said Mayar did not have the permit required to own an exotic animal.
In March prosecutors declined to file animal cruelty charges after a necropsy conducted at the zoo revealed the dwarf caiman had fluid in its lungs and died from acute pneumonia. The procedure gave no definitive answer as to how or when the caiman developed the infection, so investigators could not determine who was responsible for it getting sick.
Contact Natalie Neysa Alund at 510-293-2469. Follow her at Twitter.com/nataliealund.